Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter and liberal MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell squared off on Sunday before a slightly left-leaning student audience at George Washington University.
The debate was sponsored by the university’s College Republicans and College Democrats in conjunction with the Young America’s Foundation. The two offered their views on everything from Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke to the ongoing crisis in Syria.
Highlights as follows:
Contraception mandate/Health Care
The evening commenced with the hot topic of the day: contraception.
Coulter, the author of “Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America,” explained that the real issue is that people do not fully understand the definition of insurance.
“Insurance is to cover unexpected emergencies — fires, car crashes and dreaded diseases,” she said. “If we’re covering something that costs between $10 and at most $30 a month, well then what can’t be ruled on by the HHS secretary? This is them taking our freedom away — the government taking our freedom away. I think the next mandate if Obama is reelected is going to be that you will have to pay a higher insurance premium if you own a gun in your home.”
O’Donnell, on the other hand, pushed for a government overhaul of the insurance industry.
“I wish the government was not requiring any insurance companies to do anything in the health care area because I wish the government had bypassed the health insurance companies completely,” said O’Donnell.
O’Donnell said he preferred universal coverage like Medicare, or as moderator Frank Sesno called it, “socialized medicine.”
“Yeah, you can call it that. It is the single most efficient health care delivery system in the world. Not in the United States — in the world,” O’Donnell added.
The Rush Limbaugh controversy
Following the outrage last week about Limbaugh’s comments regarding Sandra Fluke, O’Donnell tried to focus on the radio host.
“It is about contraception for Rush Limbaugh. That’s all he’s talking about,” O’Donnell said.
And Rush Limbaugh has decided a college student or in the case he was talking about a law school student — if that law school student wants and uses contraception and advocates for others, she is a prostitute. She is a slut. That is what the Limbaugh position is.”
Coulter took the opportunity to discuss Limbaugh to point out all the sins liberals have committed against women.
“This red-herring, when liberals all get ginned up about some talk radio host who is very popular, I don’t know why Republicans, particularly elected Republicans are responding at all,” said Coulter. “Why doesn’t Obama have to respond to the things that his million-dollar donor Bill Maher has said, calling Sarah Palin the ‘c-word,’ for example. Why doesn’t my friend Lawrence have to respond his MSNBC colleague Ed Schultz calling Laura Ingraham a slut? Or Rachel Maddow accusing the good people of Kentucky of murders of the census worker?”
“Those all get a pass because conservatives aren’t so silly. We would rather talk about issues. I can see why liberals don’t want to talk about issues.”
Obama and the economy
The pair then delved into the economy and whether it will pose a problem for Obama next November.
“It is a vulnerability to all of those who have not had the great experience of being in the economics classes here at GW,” said O’Donnell. “Look, he found himself sworn into the worst economy since the Depression and things were getting worse by the hour on his first day and in his first months. Unemployment skyrocketed in January and February of his first year and so in economics you can never prove what you did. There’s too many variables.”
O’Donnell reviewed the stimulus spending efforts but said it was something like a medical procedure, which is difficult to determine how it might succeed.
“You never know what might have happened if we had done nothing. What would the unemployment rate have gone to if we had done nothing?” He added. “And so that’s the pain of being the president in a time of tough economic conditions because whatever measures you take that you firmly believe are taken to help the economy you’re never going to prove that they work. That’s just the nature of economics.”
O’Donnell boasted about how taxes were increased when he was the chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee during the Clinton years, which he explained didn’t prevent an economic boom. However, he did not say the economy soared because of those hikes.
Coulter pointed out that while O’Donnell’s defense of the economy was admirable, it is difficult to defend.
“That was a very good defense of a very bad economy. You can never run the same experiment twice and see what happened,” she said. “But there are comparisons to other recessions and this is the worst recovery — the unemployment rate has been higher and longer during the recovery than it was during the recession, which ended in mid-2009.”
“Also, the Obama administration economists, who have taken economics courses, they made their predictions for what the stimulus would do. And they certainly weren’t raising expectations. In fact, instead of getting the unemployment rate down, it had gone through the roof. It also something that can be looked at without having to run the experiment twice, that the stimulus money went to Democrats, friends of Democrats. It went to very high income states, not states that are suffering, not the states with the highest unemployment — but the states that voted for Obama.”
“And you have half-a-trillion dollars going to Solyndra and six members of the Obama administration going to work for Solyndra under a special loan taxpayers can never get back. I mean, we really do have crony capitalism that has hurt Americans while helping Democratic friends”
Coulter said to compare the U.S. economy and its Keynesian policies to Canada and its austerity policies to determine what course would have been the best.
With Syria in the news. Coulter and O’Donnell broadly discussed the philosophy of interventionism — agreeing that in many cases it is wise to stay home in the face of foreign uprisings.
O’Donnell pointed out that each situation is a new one and that past precedent cannot inform current conflicts, and analogized his philosophy on foreign engagement to Ron Paul. Coulter took the argument a step further, pointing out that liberals always will err on engaging in conflicts in which America’s interests are not at stake while conservatives who engage in foreign conflicts are focused on advancing America’s cause.
“If it does not serve America’s interests Democrat presidents want to intervene. If it does serve America’s interests Democrats do not want to intervene,” she said. Coulter then launched into a chronicle of the history of Democratic presidents’ wars and detailing her belief that it was foolish to topple Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi (whom Bush had made “his bitch”) while ignoring the pro-democracy uprising in Iran.
When she had completed her history lesson, Senso scoffed, “I have no idea what you just said.”
“What don’t you understand?” she responded. “You must not be very bright if you don’t understand.”
Voting age and gender
Appealing to the heavily college student audience, Senso asked Coulter and O’Donnell their thoughts on lowering the drinking age and pivoted quickly into a debate on the voting age. O’Donnell used the opportunity to attack Coulter for her past comments on the issue.
According to Coulter, the drinking age should be lowered to 19 years old, but people should not be allowed to vote until they begin paying for their own insurance.
O’Donnell did not offer an answer but instead took the opportunity to explain to the uninformed audience that 26 is the age most begin to pay for their own insurance and followed it up with a past Coulter quote in which she expressed a desire to no longer see women at the ballot box, as they largely vote Democrat.
“Ann believes that none of you should be allowed to vote, believes and has written that the voting age should be raised to 26,” O’Donnell said in a menacing voice.
“Yeah when you pay for your own health insurance,” Coulter reiterated.
“She said you people are not smart enough to vote. She has also said — told the British press — that women in this country, and this is very self-sacrificing of her, should not be allowed to vote. She was asked by the Guardian in 2003, ‘Who shouldn’t have the vote’ and I am going to quote word for word here so there is no confusion, answer, and this is a quotation: ‘It’s true. It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 – except Goldwater in ’64 – the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted,’” O’Donnell quoted Coulter.
“Would you miss voting?” Senso asked Coulter.
“If the rest of my gender doesn’t vote I wouldn’t miss it at all,” she said to boos.
Unfazed, Coulter took any and every opportunity during the uneventful question and answer period to remind the rowdy crowd that, in her opinion they — as college students, the majority under 26 — really should not be voting.